When Australia’s most generous musical theatre scholarship, the Rob Guest Endowment, recently published the names of thirty semi-finalists who were in the running to win a $50,000 scholarship, fellow actor and performer Hayden Tee seized upon the list, scrutinised the names and arrived at the conclusion that the line-up did not meet his expectations of racial diversity. Mr Tee then took it upon himself to write an open letter to the selection committee in which he described its choice of nominees as a ‘whitewash’. Presumably, the pun was not intended.
Instead of sticking to its guns, the Rob Guest Endowment swiftly capitulated, issued a grovelling apology, vowed to do better and cancelled the scholarship for 2020. So much for supporting the younger generation and ‘helping them achieve their dreams’ as the endowment proudly purports to do.
Worse still, it was not only the Rob Guest Endowment that took heed of Mr Tee’s objections. In what can only be described as the ultimate display of virtue signalling, the semi-finalists who had spent months of blood, sweat and tears working towards the competition, resolved collectively that their overwhelming whiteness indeed rendered them unworthy of financial assistance in the form of a scholarship.
By way of interest, Mr Tee, who has had a glittering international career thus far treading the boards of productions such as Les Misérables, Matilda the Musical and My Fair Lady has also pledged to ‘create an anti-racist and decolonised Australian Theatre Industry’ and ‘to be a lifelong ally.’ Interestingly, he is yet to add to his list of pledges the promise that he will ‘Reject any future lucrative offers to appear on Broadway or in the West End.’ It seems that Mr Tee would like to be woke, but not just quite yet.
This total surrender by both the Rob Guest Endowment and the nominees to the forces which seek to undermine the culture of Western civilisation, including musical theatre, is hardly surprising. In this day and age, it takes an immense amount of courage to push back against this fanatical element of our society which is going about the business of denigrating, deconstructing and cancelling everything we have with a prodigious and terrifying energy.
In Australia, the arts world is replete with activists who have embarked upon a path of career suicide from which there is no return. Last year for example, a group of musicians and composers penned a peculiarly entitled petition, ‘Opera and the doing of women,’ in which they claimed that they had had enough of ‘entrenched bias, the structural nature of sexism and other exclusionary forces that are reflected in many of the norms, expectations and practices of opera as an artform’ and demanded that Opera Australia do something about it. Thankfully, artistic director Lyndon Terracini roundly rejected the hysterical calls, saying in no uncertain terms that ‘it would be irresponsible of us to decide that some of the major works in the Western canon shouldn’t be seen.’
Unfortunately, the Rob Guest Endowment does not have a Lyndon Terracini on their books to point out how ludicrous this all is. Neither, it seems, does the Australia Council of the Arts. Since April, the Council has generously dished out over $7.6 million worth of taxpayers’ money under an emergency ‘Resilience Fund’ to a range of artists clearly obsessed with identity politics and whose works range from sitting in cubes in order to express their disdain for conservative ideologies; to smashing the patriarchy by sending things into outer space; to knitting giant blue scarves as a protest about coal mining.
But perhaps the most pernicious venture that the Australia Council for the Arts is funding in conjunction with the Victorian state government’s Create Victoria, is an organisation called Creatives of Colour. This group operates under the assumption that the Australian arts scene is so dangerously racist that non-white artists need ‘survival strategies’ in order to safely make it through each day without being lynched by the mob.
Among the many pieces of advice proffered to minorities, it says ‘Align yourself with those who have lost the most and who have the most to lose from colonisation, i.e. First Nations and BIPOC. If it is not safe for them, it will not be safe for you. If a predominantly White space does not treat a First Nations person or a ‘Blak’ person as a full human being, they will not see you as a full human being either.’ It also warns the following: ‘It is very rare to meet a White Ally whose actions are not self-serving in some form or another (e.g. they do what they do to make themselves feel good, rather than actually understanding that they have a responsibility to ‘pay back’ some of the privilege that has helped them to coast through life, by “doing” as an ally would).’ The language used by Creatives of Colour is offensive and bigoted and there is no place for it in Australian society.
It would not be at all surprising to find out that the folk at Creatives of Colour have been taking notes from a document called ‘White Supremacy Culture in Organisation’. Currently doing the rounds in Canada, this piece of critical race theory thinly disguised as a management guide is being hastily adopted by a great many arts organisations who are vowing to use it as a manual to completely remake their organisational structures in the coming years.
The upshot of the document is that white people need to acknowledge that attributes like hard work, perfectionism, meritocracy, the written word and individualism are trappings of ‘white privilege’ and thus need to be expunged from any organisation.
If it were it to be adopted by the Australia Council for the Arts, for example, it would signal the death knell for the entire arts community. This kind of dangerous and short-sighted identity politics does nothing but create division and resentment. It diminishes the quality of the arts, creates a resistance of highly talented people who are missing out on opportunities and is an insult to the talented and hard-working people of other cultures.